When the English explorer, George Vancouver (1757-1798) first charted the waters here on the north east coast of north America in his voyages here during the years 1791 to 1795, he may have imagined an English settlement being established here, but he would not have known that it would one day be a great city and be named in his honour. (Read Canada History section)
Vancouver is indeed a great city, ideally located on the west coast of Canada, on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, and just 38 kilometres (24 miles) north from the border with the USA. It is the third biggest Canadian City after Toronto and Montreal.
The Vancouver International Airport is just to the south of the main city centre, and about 20 minutes away. There are taxis and also the Skytrain (an automated light rail system) will take you to the City and other stations on its network.
The main Downtown city part of Vancouver is located on a peninsula with Vancouver Harbour on the northern side and English Bay on the southern side, with the end of the peninsula being a huge park, Stanley Park covering an area of 1000 acres (405 hectares) creating a large green space in the city.
Vancouver is very much a harbour city with waterways, cruise terminals, port facilities, marinas, ferries, ships and boats in the harbour, with a number of beaches close by and islands including Vancouver Island off the coast all here to see and experience. You will also see seaplanes taking off and landing on the water too – and they have flights out of Vancouver to see the city, mountains, islands, ocean and surrounding area or take you to Victoria and other places where there is water to land on.
Mostly wherever you are in the City, you will not be far away from Vancouver Harbour and English Bay while at the same time the City is just half an hour away (depending on traffic) from ski resorts and mountains. Adding to the mix of islands, waterways and mountains are the massive forest areas that surround the city, with Forestry still being the biggest industry in Vancouver.
Vancouver has a population of around 600,000 but in the greater Vancouver area there are around 2.4 million people, with the City being quite multi-cultural with a mix of people of English heritage, but also from countries from all over the world. The city is proud of its multi-cultural heritage.
Around 30% of the population is of Chinese origin, making Vancouver a city with one of the biggest Chinese communities outside of China. There is a large Chinatown here in Vancouver, and this is just one of the many places you should visit.
A number of Cruise Ships leave from Vancouver heading mostly north to Alaska through the Inland Passage, and this is one of the world's great voyages to see this alpine wonderland, icebergs, bears, seals, birds and other wildlife as you cruise northwards. Bring some field glasses to make the most of your trip north if you are cruising.
In Vancouver itself these are some of the main attractions –
- Gastown – is the oldest part of Vancouver, just to the north side of downtown and named after 'Gassy' Jack Deighton who first set up a tavern bar here in the 1880's. While the name may conjure up thoughts of a bad smelling neighbourhood, the reality is anything but. Here you will find great restaurants and bars along Powell Street, galleries and interesting shops along Water Street and Cordoba Streets and lots of fashion too. The area with its Victorian buildings and street atmosphere is one of the best places to come to in Vancouver, with many events and music happening throughout the year.
- Chinatown – head to the corner of East Pender and Taylor Streets and you will find close by Shanghai Alley, Canton Alley, Suzhou Alley, Guangzhou Alley and Keefer Street – a whole area with Chinese and Asian Restaurants, shops and interesting architecture from the days when the first Chinese came to Vancouver to work on the Railway and seek other work, some of the Heritage buildings dating back to 1890 to 1920.
- Canada Place and Waterfront Road - Canada Place located on Burrard Inlet and you will recognize it by the rows of white sails that form the roof over the main building where you find the World Trade Centre and Convention Centre. It is located at 999 Canada Place – and it is next to Waterfront Road that runs from Coal Harbour Quay, past Air BC Terminal, Burrard Place and the Sea Bus Terminal, where the Sea Bus (Ferry) heads across to North Vancouver. Look for Flyover Canada – a show that takes you on a flight over Canada. See www.canadaplace.ca
- Interesting Streets in City – look for Hastings Street and also Robson Street – both within walking distance of each other. The City Centre itself is easy to walk around and there is also public transport including the Skytrain automated Light Rail System, buses and the Seabus that takes passengers to North Vancouver a 12 minute journey across Burrard Inlet and the Aquabus (cute small ferries) that stop at docks along False Creek (south side of City Centre) to Vanier Park and to Granville Island.
- Granville Island – is just across the Granville Street Bridge from the City Centre, the Bridge crossing over False Creek. This area was once the industrial heartland of Vancouver, with the Mill Town of Granville being the original name for Vancouver before it was changed to Vancouver in 1886. Today, Granville Island and its famous Market are home to a whole new generation of food places, theatres, micro-breweries with the market a centrepiece. One of the best things to do here is to experience the food and also to take a Ferry Ride along False Creek and into English Bay.
- BC Ferries – (size of a ship) berth at Tsawwassen – about 45 minutes south of Vancouver to take people to Victoria (on Vancouver Island), Nanaimo and the Southern Gulf Islands, and they also have a Berth at Horseshoe Bay – about 45 minutes north of Vancouver, which also take people to Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast. See www.bcferries.bc.ca
- Grouse Mountain – 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver. See www.grousemountain.com This is a ski field in winter and a great summertime hiking area, with ziplines, wildlife and more activities. Check the website for more details when you are here in Vancouver to see what's happening here, and put this high on your agenda to see.
- Vanier Park – this is in Kitsilano neighbourhood (close to the City centre) at 100 Chestnut Street. Here you will find the park beside English Bay where False Creek enters the Bay and also find Vancouver Museum, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, City of Vancouver Archives and the H.R MacMillan Space Centre which incorporates a Planetarium and Observatory. See www.spacecentre.ca
- Stanley Park is the biggest and most famous parkland area covering the whole tip of the Peninsula covering an area of around 1000 acres (405 hectares) with great views of the Lion's Gate Bridge to the north (Built in1938), and the seawall Bike and walking trail running along beside English Bay on the southern side. In Stanley Park you will also find Vancouver Aquarium, First Nation Totem Poles, rainforest, beaches and walkways through the gardens. See www.vancouver.ca/parks Vancouver Aquarium is located at 845 Avison Way and here you will be able to see Beluga Whales, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, hundreds of fish and other sea creatures.
- Queen Elizabeth Park –4600 Cambie Street (corner West St). Queen Elizabeth Park covers 130 acres (52 hectares) and is named after the Queen Mother (Elizabeth) (1900-2002), wife of King George VI of Britain and Canada. It is one of the most beautiful parks in the world and you could well see a number of Wedding photos being taken here using the gardens as a backdrop. The Celebration Pavilion is set up for weddings and you will also be able to see the Boedel Conservatory in its dome shaped building, the Quarry Garden, Arboretum and the Dancing Water Fountain. The Gardens have lots of walkways and really bring the seasons to life. The park is also at one of the highest points of the city too, and if the Cherry Trees are in blossom you are in for a real treat.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge – 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver. This is also a great park area where you can walk along a high suspension bridge and walkway hanging off the side of a cliff face, looking down from the tops of the trees. There is also the Logger's Grill here and also a Trading Post with Canadian souvenirs and clothing to buy.
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge – 3663 Park Rd, North Vancouver. This is a much shorter suspension bridge just 40 metres (130 feet) but is equally impressive as you look down on Lynn Creek and the forest below you. The Bridge has been here since 1912.
- Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens – 578 Carrall Street. Dr Sun Yat Sen (1866-1925) was a medical doctor who became the first President and father of the Republic of China. This garden was built in his honour, and with Vancouver having a large Chinese community, the gardens have many symbolic and cultural significance.
- VanDusen Botanical Gardens – 5251 Oak Street (West 37th Street). The gardens first opened in 1975, developed by the lumberman, Whitford Julian VanDusen and donated to the City. Here you will find the Visitor Centre and café in a building that looks like floating leaves or petals of an orchid, while the gardens themselves are made up of different eco-systems to stimulate the senses and transport you to a Louisiana swampland, Himalayan Mountain top, the Mediterranean and other landscapes. There are also many sculptures within the gardens too with walking paths and also garden tours during parts of the year.
- English Bay Beach – Beach Avenue (between Gilford Street and Bidwell Street) is within view of the city and has a wide sandy beach, kayak rentals in the summer, swimming raft, beach volleyball courts, café and the Stanley Seawall walking and biking trail is here too.
- Jericho Beach – Point Grey Road (between Wallace Street and Discovery Street). This beach has a wide sandy beach area, as well as playing fields next to it, tennis courts, tables for picnics, swimming raft and lifeguards during the summer months. There is also a sailing centre here too.
- Wreck Beach – NW to SW Marine Drive (near University of British Columbia) is a clothing optional (nude) beach around 7.8 kilometres long, with a large breakwater roughly midway. The beach attracts large numbers of nudists during the summer months and the beach hosts lots of events during the year and even has its own website www.wreckbeach.org The nude only swimming club is located here too.
- Locarno Beach – NW Marine Drive (between Tolmie Street and Discovery Street) near Jericho Beach. Here you can get a great view of the City skyline with its high rise buildings. There are picnic tables, a swimming raft and lifeguards during the summer months.
- Spanish Banks Beach – NW Marine Drive (west side of Tolmie Street) near the Seaside Seawall. Again this is a wide sandy beach with lifeguards during the summer months, bar-b-cue areas and great views out over the water with the skyline of Vancouver in the background
- Second Beach – Stanley Park Drive next to North Lagoon Drive. This beach also has summer lifeguards and a great little beach with picnic tables and playground for kids.
- Kitsilano Beach – Cornwall Avenue (north end of Kew Street). They call this popular beach 'Kits' and there is a restaurant here , tennis courts, basketball courts and the Kitsilano Swimming Pool is here too.
- Third Beach – Stanley Park Seawall at Ferguson Point. This is quite a small quiet beach with Stanley Park as its backdrop. There are washrooms, lifeguards during the summer months and picnic areas here.
- Sunset Beach – Beach Avenue (between Thurlow Street and Bute Street). As the name suggests this is a good place to take in the sunsets in summer, with lifeguards in summer. It is a relatively small beach and is a 'quiet beach' in contrast to some of the others.
- Trout Lake Beach – Victoria Drive and East 19th Avenue (South end of Trout Lake in John Hendry Park. This is a lake side beach with summer lifeguards, swimming raft, playing grounds and picnic areas.
None of the beaches listed above could be classed as having waves for surfing, due to the islands off the coast stopping any large waves coming here. If you are looking to ride a surfboard, you need to head south into Washington State in the USA – so crossing the border, which means time spent going through customs just to get there. Suggested places to find surfing waves in Washington State are at Point Roberts and Fort Ebey on Whitbey Island.
Other points of interest –
- Museum of Anthropology – 6393 NW Marine Drive, at the University of British Columbia. See www.moa.ubc.ca Here you will see Totem poles and some 40,000 different historical objects and 80,000 images related to the history of British Columbia from pre-European times to today. There are around 6000 items that relate to British Columbia's First Nation's people and heritage.
- Science World – 1455 Quebec Street. See www.scienceworld.ca If you are interested in science this is the place to come to. The Omnimax Theatre is here too.
- BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum – 777 Pacific Boulevard. This museum and hall of Fame celebrates Canadian sports and sports men and women who have achieved and made sporting history. See www.bcsportshalloffame.com
- BC Place Stadium – is also at 777 Pacific Boulevard. See www.bcstadium.com
- CASINOS – downtown look for Edgewater Casino at 760 Pacific Boulevard (see www.edgewatercasino.com ; Also see River Rock Casino at 8811 River Road, (see www.riverroad.com ; Grand Villa Casino at 4331 Dominion Street (see www.grandvillacasio.com ) and Hard Rock Casino at 2080 United Boulevard, Coquitlam (see www.hardrockcasinovancouver.com
- RACING – see Hastings Racecourse, first opened in 1889 and located at 188 N. Renfrew Street. See www.hastingsracecourse.com
- Vancouver Art Gallery – 750 Hornby Street. See www.vanartgallery.bc.ca This is one of the best art galleries in Canada, with a diverse range of work by Canadian Artists.
- Bill Reid Gallery of North West Coast Art – 639 Hornby Street. See www.billreidgallery.ca
- St Pauls Cathedral – 1130 Jervis Street. See www.stpaulsanglican.bc.ca
- Greater Vancouver Zoo – 5048 264th St, Aldergrove See www.gvzoo.com The zoo has an amazing collection of animals including bison, arctic wolves, arctic foxes, the bat eared fox, Roosevelt Elk, Ankole cow and many others.
- Maplewood Farm – 405 Seymour River Place, North Vancouver. See www.maplewoodfarm.bc.ca This is where you can get up close to lots of farm animals around 200 of them on the farm that covers an area of around 5 acres (2 hectares).
- Old Hastings Mill Store and Museum – 1575 Alma Street (near Royal Vancouver Yacht Club) This is the oldest building in Vancouver and holds a lot of history about Vancouver and the days when it was a Mill Town. See www.hastings-mill-museum.ca
- Burnaby Village Museum and Carousel – 6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby. (about 15 kilometres east on the Trans Canada H'wy) See www.burnabyvillagemuseum.ca This outdoor museum is set in a recreation of a 1920's street with houses, people in costume, old tram and 1912 Parker Carousel. Being outdoors, it is a great day out and easy to get to from downtown Vancouver. Burnaby Art Gallery is also located close by at 6344 Deer Lake Road. See www.burnabyartgallery.ca